Being struck by lightning is like a horrible version of winning the lottery: It's probably never going to happen, but if it does, it could be life-changing. Like winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning is one of the go-to standards for describing how unlikely something is—we've all had a parent tell us "You're more likely to be struck by lightning than..." But how unlikely is it, and what would be the result?
Lightning is beautiful, scary, and less predictable that you might hope. But just how unlikely is getting struck by it? The odds against a direct hit are pretty good—around 1/12,000 if you live until you're 80—but not as reassuring as you might hope. Lightning is also six times more likely to kill American men than American women, and we don't really know why. Knowledge is your best weapon against lightning, so here's an introduction to what we do know.